Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Quesada Sons of Freedom Maduro Torpedo

Country: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: ???
Filler / Binder: ???
Length: 6
Ring: 52
Cost: $5.50

Background: Speaking quite frankly, we haven’t had the opportunity to review too may Quesada offerings, other than the Oktoberfest. But that one review was a positive one. So going into this Casa de Montecristo - Chicago blend, we has some high hopes. This one is a bit on the mysterious side, given that there is no information out there on the wrapper, filler, or possible binder in there. So here goes nothing…

Appearance (0-20):  The first thing I am struck by is the deeply colored maduro wrapper on the outside and how well it contrasts with the band. The orange background on the band first perfectly against it. Down the center is the name, “SONS OF FREEDOM” in white block lettering, and it is flanked by a silver and white pattern. The band itself is slightly askew. Overall it is a pretty solid look, though it may be a little too understated in terms of attention to detail. The label being off is a simple fix. And perhaps if the rings of white inside the silver were punched out, it would give the smoke just a little bit… more?
Score: 17

Construction (0-20): The construction is simply a marvel on this one. Everything about it is right. There are minimal veins, and the ones that do exist are small. It’s tightly wrapped and from an initial feel, it’s really well packed. After snipping off the end, there was literally no loose debris. With how tightly things were packed, I was a little worried that the draw would be tight – but it wasn’t. It was perfect throughout the entire smoke. It burned literally razor sharp the entire length of the stick and impressively the ash held for over half of the stick before falling off.
Score: 20

Strength (0-20): It’s listed as being a solid medium strength cigar, and I have to say – it’s pretty damn close. For the most part it’s a slight bit over the medium range but teeters back to medium pretty consistently.
Score: 18

Flavor (0-20): One of the biggest and most immediate flavors that hit the palate is that of coffee and a dark cocoa. It’s really bittersweet but surprisingly good. There’s a little nuttiness and earthiness that tones the bitter flavor just right. Not all that much changes in the second third of the smoke, other than adding just the slightest bit of pepper on the retrohale. The final third is again much of the same with some deviations in the amount of spice.
Score: 16

Value (0-20):  $5.50 puts us in to the category where it has the chance to actually be a steal, considering much of the competition in that range comes across as solid but not great.
Score: 18

Additional Notes: Paired with water. Provided by Casa de Montecristo - Chicago. Please note, the small issue at the foot of the cigar was my fault, as I dropped it. I know… shame on me.

Overall (0-100): So let’s begin with the things I am impressed by – the construction is what cigars should strive to be. Everything is on with it – the draw is perfect, it burns razor sharp, the ash holds. The value is also a really strong point, along with the fact that the strength being right where it should be. It is really well balanced.

I wish they would have put a little more time into the appearance. While the stick itself wasn’t poorly done by any means, nor is the band – the band could use a little work. Really it’s the only thing keeping that score from being slightly higher. But that being said my biggest issue is the flavor. It’s good. Not great, but good. The smoke has a very nice base of coffee and cocoa, and complimentary flavors of nuts, earth, and pepper. But after that… there is kind of a lack – no real complexity.

At the pricepoint where it sits… it’s still really solid for a straightforward smoke.

Score: 89

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Jonathan Drew Announces New Company “John Drew Brands"

April 19, 2016, Wynwood, Florida  - Jonathan Drew has announced his plans today to enter the spirits industry with his new venture, “John Drew Brands.” The movement will focus on spirits, craft beverages, and food. 

Best known for "Market Disruption" before the word was an art form, JD pioneered new market segments in the premium cigar industry with brands such as "ACID Cigars" and "Kentucky Fire Cured Cigars." Over 19 years, the Drew Estate founder created one of the world’s largest premium cigar companies - Drew Estate.  In November 2014, DE was sold to Swisher International (Swisher Sweets) for an undisclosed amount.  

"My life's journey has been hard, and sometimes painful," said the 45-year-old Drew. "Permanently moving to war-torn Nicaragua in 1998 without speaking a word of Spanish was emblematic of the risks I embraced to have access to the raw materials we required for our cigars.  While I'm proud of the successful brands & culture we've birthed at DE, my greatest pride and joy was living inside the factory for 14 years, only steps away from the daily production, packaging, and leaf processing.  On a daily basis, I was working on the factory floor before breakfast. The dedication and hard work from the DE team in the USA allowed me to remain laser focused on brand ideation from an organic perspective on the factory floor, not from a whack corporate office."

President of Drew Estate, Michael Cellucci, commented from Estelí, Nicaragua, "JD might just be the Bo Jackson of the cigar and spirits industries. His passion and commitment for Drew Estate Cigar Company remains 100% intact with no plan to disengage. I have full confidence in his team’s ability to develop a legacy in the spirits world as well. JD is a visionary with an attitude to match, but he doesn't forget his roots or his people.  This is going to be a lot of fun and Jonathan is amped up, so expect a wild ride."

To continue to follow the developing story of John Drew Brands, visit the new websites for the brands at http://mashdestroyer.com, http://dovetalerum.com, and http://johndrewrye.com. Also, follow John Drew Brands on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at @johndrewbrands.

About John Drew Brands:

Founded in 2015, John Drew Brands is an NDP Beverage Startup, with a reckless spirit to destroy... Initially focused on developing rums and whiskey brands, as well as “Second Birth Craft Spirits,” John Drew Brands represents quality, transparency and vision-forward philosophy. Brand portfolio includes Brixton Mash Destroyer, Dove Tale Rum, and John Drew Rye.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Father Oro de Nicaragua Toro

Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Nicaragua
Filler / Binder: Nicaragua
Length: 6
Ring: 52
Cost: $10.00

Background: Don Pepin blends often find their way into our hands and let me tell you – we are thankful that they do. This offering from Pepin is a small batch release that is specific to the Casa de Montecristo. It comes in four vitolas – a rubusto, perfecto, toro, and torpedo. The meaning of the cigar’s name, Oro de Nicaragua, is “Nicaraguan Gold”. And if it’s anything like the other My Father smokes, it’s bound to be a good one. But let’s see if it does indeed hold up to the gold standard with this Nicaraguan puro.

Appearance (0-20):  The Oro de Nicaragua has a darker wrapper than many of the My Father lines, giving off a nice rich milk chocolate color. It has the standard My Father band with the gold MF logo and “My Father” script, the light peach backdrop, and some hints of green on the main label. This is flanked below with the particulars of the smoke – a black label with gold embossed lettering “ORO de NICARAGUA” and some matching colors below it to tie it in with the main band. Along the stick there are no real veins of note, or blemishes, but there is a small crack on one side. I’m considering this a slight appearance issue since it looks like just a thin part of the wrapper is cracked slightly.
Score: 17

Construction (0-20): From the initial feel the stick is a solid one with no issues. It is packed well and is tightly wrapped. The initial cut had no debris, and the draw was right on the money. Lighting up was quick and easy and the burn line stuck sharply throughout. Ash held for multiple inches at a time. And I’m happy to say the draw stayed nearly perfect throughout. Like most Pepin blends – this one is well constructed.
Score: 19

Strength (0-20): Medium with a slight tip toward the full spectrum is what the cigar is marketed as, and it certainly ends up falling just right there. There are slight deviations from the central strength, but overall it’s close.
Score: 18

Flavor (0-20): I have made a lot of comments about this being a Pepin blend and it’s the most evident when lighting up. If you know anything about his way of operating, you’ll know it begins with a strong pepper blast. I’m talking the sort that stings the mouth and nostrils pretty hard. But the initial blast of pepper is fleeting and quickly drops to just a supplementary flavor that’s most seen in the retrohale. The main body is more based around a rich earthy taste. There’s a slightly bitter coffee flavor that you can pick up on and something that can best be described as the taste of fresh leather. Around the first third there is a bit of creaminess that sneaks in and tones down the pepper even further. It’s still there, mind you, but really well balanced.

Beyond the midway point I was picking up some nutty flavors that were, that’s right, peppered. There’s a bit of woodsy taste that pops up too, and some wood. Occasionally I was able to pull out some kind of really sweet notes that I can’t describe adequately. I want to say it reminds me of the sweetness you can pull from some fruits, but again, I can’t quite put my finger on which.
Score: 18

Value (0-20):  $10.00 puts this in with a number of the heavyweight cigars out there. I personally think it’s worth the money, especially given it’s a small batch smoke. Not a bargain, but a solid price.
Score: 18

Additional Notes: Paired with water. Provided by Casa de Montecristo - Chicago.

Overall (0-100): Pepin delivers again with this offering with a stick that quite honestly – is outstanding across the board. It’s rich and complex while being well balanced, and doesn’t teeter off the rails where other cigars may. The flavors play really well together, mixing a lot of those opposing flavors – bitter but sweet, peppery but smooth, woodsy and earthy. It all just works. In fact, everything about it – the construction, appearance, the strength, and even the price – are completely on point for what this is.

Swing over to Casa de Montecristo - Chicago and give one of these a try. It’s worth it.

Score: 90

Sunday, April 10, 2016

L'Atelier La Mission 1989

Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Mexico
Filler / Binder: Nicaragua
Length: 5.625
Ring: 54
Cost: $9.00

Background: L’Atelier Imports is an interesting import company at its core. Comprised of 4 individual – Pete Johnson (best known for Tatuaje), his brother K.C. Johnson, Sean “Casper” Johnson, and Dan Welsh, they have found a way to bring some outstanding smokes to us. We have had the opportunity to talk with both Pete and KC a number of times in person and they are two of the most down to earth guys you will ever meet. Will this follow in the same line of solid offerings like we have seen from the Crystal Baller, El Suelo, LAT54, and Bone Crusher? We certainly hope so. Especially given that it was given some top honors with one of the sizes being selected as the #17 cigar of the year in 2015.

Appearance (0-20):  The L’Atelier La Mission has a really inviting look to it. The wrapper has a superb rich look to it with no discoloration or blemishes. From a banding standpoint, there is a prominent M scripted in something reminiscent of an Old English font. It’s flanked by “La Mission” and “L’Atelier” with an ornate black and gold embossing and crowns on the top and bottom. Its ornate, but not overly so, and really does the job correctly. Well played L’At. Well played.
Score: 18

Construction (0-20): The construction is a bit on the interesting side for this one. Start out with the fact that this is a box pressed smoke with a pigtail on the end and you already have something to ponder. The wrapper here is out of San Andreas. But just as interesting is that the Sancti Spiritus leaf is found in this one too, much like the Tatuaje The Jackal, and many other L’At products. Everything throughout feels packed properly, with nothing out of place. The initial cut is clean, and the draw is perfect.
Score: 19

Strength (0-20): Full – and it definitely hits that mark with slight deviations to the medium to full range. Still, it starts out strong, drops slightly, and comes back to the full range again.
Score: 18

Flavor (0-20): Lighting up this smoke immediately yielded a nice mixture of robust flavors. Chocolate is extremely prevalent, but a really rich mocha sort. The sweet, rich flavors serve as the backdrop that slowly incorporates some sleight pepper, wood, and earthy notes. It’s interesting to see the mocha in the forefront with the other flavors being the compliment… but it works and it works well.

As you move along, the earthiness becomes a bit more intense. Additional flavors like anise, a bitter coffee, and leather can be identified. The smoke is rich though, as if you were having something that was cooked in butter. It is definitely delicious. There are some other minor notes of sweetness (caramel, maybe?) but they are a little tougher to identify.

The final third tends to stick in the same wheelhouse for the most part, but the flavors deviate a little more often. Oddly enough, this is the place where the pepper finally gets its real kick.
Score: 19

Value (0-20):  A $9.00 price point for a single stick is a bit on the steep side for roughly a 5.6 x 54. But that shouldn’t dissuade you on this one.
Score: 18

Additional Notes: Paired with water. Provided by Famous Smoke Shop.

Overall (0-100): I don’t know where to begin with a smoke like this. Do you start with all of the general review characteristics and go from there? Do you decide to talk about the background information on the cigar that is interesting but perhaps not material? Something in between?

For this one I want to lay out some of the bear bones information – this was inspired by a French winery (Château La Mission Haut-Brion) that is known for their very strong rich red wines. The years specific to the current vitola names on the cigar are the years where the winery received 100 point ratings on their blends from Robert Parker. So why link them together? Bold flavors that lead to a perfect result.

This one may not be perfect per say, but it’s pretty damn good. There are really no shortcomings that I can point at. It’s well made, priced competitively, hits the strength range, and generally looks pretty good. The flavors really shine though. Nothing seems forced when smoking it. The transitions are all seamless, and there are no “bombs” of flavor. In fact everything ramps up and down effectively. The complexity works well, and the mainstay flavors of earth, pepper, and mocha are really outstanding. Additional nuances range across the board from a caramel type of flavor all the way through the gamut to wood.

When all is said and done – this is worth the price paid and well deserving of being one pf the top 25 cigars of 2015.

Score: 92

The Cigar - Moments of Pleasure

We get the opportunity from time to time to share news from other ends of the cigar spectrum, and in this case - its from a publisher out of Denmark. For the last 5 years they have cultivated a number of pictures and stories from various sources to produce this book. We personally look forward to being able to read it in the future and may even have the opportunity to pass on some savings to our readers. Stay tuned!

Edit - Check out the review here!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Black Label Trading Company announces MORPHINE

April 6, 2016 — Black Label Trading Company is pleased to announce the third release of MORPHINE: Hand crafted in Esteli at Fabrica Oveja Negra.

Black Label Trading Co. first released MORPHINE in June, 2014. Followed by the second release in June 2015. MORPHINE is produced by BLTC’s factory, Fabrica Oveja Negra in Esteli.

“Morphine has quickly become a favorite of our customers. I think we can now say its our signature blend. The 2016 Morphine will not disappoint with it’s big bold flavors and unique character. The blend is the same but we have changed the vitolas to highlight different characteristics of the cigar. This production also includes our first torpedo cigar in any of the BLTC lines.” Said James Brown.

MOPRHINE cigars will be available in limited quantities at select BLTC retailers at the end of May, 2016.
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés Maduro
  • Binder: Nicaraguan Habano
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Corona Gorda – 5.5 x 48 (20 count) MSRP $10.50
  • Lancero – 7.25 x 42 (12 count) MSRP $11.00
  • Torpedo Box Press – 5 x 54 (18 count) MSRP $10.50

Black Label Trading Company is redefining the standards for cigar making. With a less is more philosophy Black Label Trading Co. creates hand crafted premium cigars of the utmost quality in small batch, limited quantities.

BLTC are available for purchase through Boutiques United.  More information can be found at www.BlackLabelTrading.com

Monday, April 4, 2016

Famous Smoke Shop debuts Four Kicks Black Belt Buckle

EASTON, PA – Famous Smoke Shop, a leading online distributor of discounted premium cigars, specializing in offering the web’s widest selection of cigars at the lowest prices, has released the two remaining vitolas in their exclusive Four Kicks Black Belt Buckle selection by Crowned Heads Cigars. Named "Sublime" and "Robusto," the new sizes join the Black Belt Buckle Corona Gorda, which was released in November of 2015, and will be limited to only 500 boxes each.
Four Kicks Black Belt Buckle cigars are made using the same Nicaraguan long-filler and binder tobaccos used in the original "91-rated" Four Kicks blend, except the wrapper is a toothy, ebony-hued Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper which adds a note of sweetness to the flavor profile. The blend is medium-bodied and well-balanced as notes of honey, chocolate, hints of light peppery spice, and cedar combine for an intriguingly complex smoke.
“We’re excited to bring Black Belt Buckle into a regular production brand for Famous Smoke," said Jon Huber, Crowned Heads Cigars co-founder. "It’s always been a dream of mine to work with Ernesto [Perez-Carrillo] on a project that involved a [Connecticut] Broadleaf wrapper, as I think he’s one of the best in the business at working with that particular wrapper leaf. And to be able to create this blend for our friends at Famous is a bonus.”
The Four Kicks Black Belt Buckle selection will now be presented as follows in boxes of 20 cigars:
Robusto (5" x 50) @$8.45 msrp
"The success of the Corona Gorda has definitely proven that Jon and Ernesto were on to something," said Jim Charnley, Famous Smoke Shop Sr. Project manager. "I see the Black Belt Buckle Sublime and Robusto taking the brand to the next level of consumer awareness and expect sales to be even higher, now that cigar smokers will have all three sizes available to them."

Friday, April 1, 2016

Rocky Patel of Rocky Patel Cigars to Run for President

Premium cigar giant launches Independent candidacy on issues of key concern to Americans

NAPLES, FL – April 1, 2016 – "I'm very concerned about our country's future," says Rakesh "Rocky" Patel, CEO of Rocky Patel Cigars.  That concern has encouraged the premium cigar maker to make a write-in bid for President of the United States as an Independent candidate.

“Mr. Patel feels the time is right: with the first filing deadlines still 8 weeks away, he has secured enough signatures to compete in 22 states so far - including Tennessee, New Jersey, all of New England and many of the Southeast and Plains states – and is well on his way to a spot on the California, Utah, New Mexico and Texas ballots, with substantial grassroots support.”

He is no stranger to the machinations of Washington politics. In concert with Cigar Rights of America (CRA), Rocky has been fighting for the rights of the cigar manufacturers, retailers, and cigar smokers who have been subjected to massive tobacco tax increases and innumerable tobacco bans nationwide. This has led to the first two pillars of his platform: a lower flat tax for goods and services, and a “Ban the Bans” initiative that he believes will protect local, small businesses from growing losses due to government over-regulation.

“Regulations have taken a significant toll on manufacturers, retailers, and consumers alike.” ~ Rocky Patel

Mr. Patel's bid for the presidency has much more to do with the myriad problems facing the country than the government's role with regard to tobacco. "Overregulation continues to strip away our constitutional rights, our military is weaker than ever, corporate taxes are driving companies overseas, middle-class income is down, and the debt has put our economy on tilt," said Mr. Patel. "There's more concern over climate change than the stock exchange," he added. "What we need is an attitude change, and that's why I'm running for President."
With the Democrat and GOP primary seasons already past the halfway point, Patel will be running as an Independent with the hope of getting on the ballot in all 50 states. His platform leans conservative, but Patel is confident he can attract both Democrat and Republican voters, adding that, if elected, he foresees being able to work with members of both parties and put an end to the Washington political gridlock.

"First and foremost, we have to balance the federal budget," said Mr. Patel, who was preparing for a rally in Naples, FL. "Federal regulation is way out of control, and it's almost impossible for anyone to start a small business these days. If elected I'll put an end to overregulation, and I've just completed my plan that will lower taxes on corporations and the middle class."

About the Candidate:
Rakesh Patel grew up in Green Bay, WI, and has a law degree from The University of Wisconsin Law School. With that, Patel established a law practice in Beverly Hills, CA, where he represented such high-profile clients as Gene Hackman and Arnold Schwarzenegger. While in Hollywood, Patel became acquainted with premium cigars, and at the age of 33, sold his legal practice. Patel then spent five years in Honduras learning the cigar trade, and in 1995 established the Indian Tabac Cigar Company. Now based in Naples, FL, in 2002, the company changed its name to Rocky Patel Premium Cigars.

Bitly Link to Campaign promotion landing page: http://bit.ly/1Ryrhlm